I decided to write this post as a follow up to a few conversations I’ve had in the past two weeks. I thought the subject matter (although a bit self-serving, I’ll admit), was a great one because so many people have asked questions about When or Why to hire a consultant.
While many firms have a regular practice of hiring consultants for certain functions, it can be difficult for others to switch gears from thinking that every firm “need” is one that must be filled with a full-time body. Some AEC firms may have more than enough work to sustain a person, or an entire marketing department…others don’t have that luxury. However, not having forty hours worth of “need” per week, doesn’t mean things can’t still get done. It also doesn’t mean that billable or senior team members should spend ten of their hours picking up the slack. This is one key time when a consultant is a great option to supplement your firm’s existing capabilities.
Here are some ways that hiring a consultant can add value to your team:
Not the way you think. I would never say that a consultant could work more efficiently than any given in-house team member. The efficiency comes in to play when there are deliverables piling up that aren’t being taken care of. Many companies tend to wait until there is so much work to do that a new hire is the only way to get it all done. (Think: “We really need to be marketing to this industry, but we don’t have enough work/money to hire somebody just to do that.”) Working with a consultant is a great way to take care of those needs as soon as they arise, and only pay for the time it takes to complete them.
Hiring a consultant on retainer or a per project basis can save a significant amount of money when compared to the salary of a FTE. Variables such as level of effort, period of performance and specific deliverables are all negotiable to maximize value and there are no overhead/benefits/taxes to add to the expense of a consultant.
Available Resources, Research or Tools
The number of marketing services, research software and contract information portals available is mind-boggling. Your firm could invest the money to purchase or subscribe to any number of them, or you could work with a consultant that has already captured those fees in their costs. This eliminates a few additional items in your marketing budget, but also prevents you from signing up for annual subscriptions or software licenses that sit idle for 80% of the time.
While my area of focus is marketing, the above points apply to all manner of consultants, human resources and accounting are two other examples. It is a great business decision to wait until a sustainable workload exists for a new hire, but until that time, don’t let the project needs or maintenance back-up for the rest of the team.